I have come to believe that there is no group of people in the west more hateful, hurtful and harmful to mamas than other mothers. When I speak with many mothers, whether they have one kid or six, I find a shocking lack of confidence in their roles of mothering and an abundance of negative, often harmful, criticism towards the choices made by other mothers. This is not to say that i havent encountered some amazingly laid back, confident mamas who live and let live (or who give kick ass advice when asked), because i have. What concerns me the most is that I know many perfectly competent, awesome mamas who are in regular internal flux, questioning and doubting every child based decision they make because of the criticism and pressures they meet from other mothers.
Instead of supporting choices made by other women in how we wish to raise our children – from breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, cloth diapering versus disposable, co-sleeping/room sharing versus separate sleeping rooms, home schooling versus public or private or religious eduation and so on- we criticize, admonish, insult and even in some instances, threaten, mothers who make choices different from our own. We judge, condescend and mock women who make educated decisions for the sake of their children simply because the decisions they make are ones that we disagree with or don’t fully comprehend.
Clearly, these attitudes are born out of severe insecurity in our parenting skills and capabilities. We doubt the choices that we make, the decisions we reach and the styles and philosophies we implement. Why do we have this incessant need to impose our opinions and styles upon other mamas? Because we are not comfortable enough in our own selves to simply say ‘I mother this way, you mother that way, and we are probably both doing a great job!’
We are stewing so deeply in our own poor self esteem that we are actively attempting to sabatoge the parenting skills of other women. Is there anything more hateful towards women than that? It is abusive and it is wholly unbecoming in a Muslimah. When we have so much self hatred that we can’t let other women make informed choices on their own for how they wish to feed, diaper, put to nap/sleep or educate their kids, we have to admit that sisterhood is dead. At least within those of us who can’t sit back and let our friends make educated decisions on their own without criticizing them or trying to force our opinions upon them (unless of course they actually ASK for our advice…).
We can label our parenting styles with any pointless title that we like (attachment style, traditional style, mamatoto style, western style) but in the end, these are valueless window dressings that mean nothing and too often divert us from implementing the best choices for our own specific situations. Mamas get so caught up in attaching ourselves to a particular parenting style that we forget that in doing so we are likely ignoring parenting practices that might be highly useful or beneficial for certain situations that we find ourselves in. Instead of being fluid and open to educating ourselves, we have become rigid, closed and fundamentalist in our parenting approach. Instead of examining each situation as it comes, we stick to predecided ideas that we have often garnered from sources that probably dont have our own children’s best interest at heart, but who stand to make money by selling their opinions or holding monthly ‘support’ meetings.
This rigidity and extremism is bad enough when we are forcing it upon our own households, but when we are so self loathing that we need to push it on others in order to feel good about our choices, then we really have gone too far. We have become, in every sense of the word, misogynists.
We look to all number of non-Muslim self proclaimed child rearing experts on how to take care of our kids while ignoring the very basis for how best to actually rear them… by respecting the Allah given instincts that we were born with. We need to keep an open mind to different approaches and couple this with the advices and examples set by our Pious Predecessors and living female Scholars who lecture and publish on this topic regularly.
Mamas could also learn some strong lessons from our female family members and Muslim sisters who kindly sit back and support our choices, even when they wholly disagree with us, but support our right to parent how we believe anyway. There is much wisdom in these women, if only we would stop to observe….
coming soon, inshaAllah: Where’s the Tarbiyah, Muslim Parents?